ALABAMA (WHNT) — In what some might call a controversial move, one of the largest gas suppliers in Alabama said it will not supply nitrogen to prisons across the state for nitrogen hypoxia executions.
Airgas, acquired by “Air Liquide” in 2016, is the largest distribution network in the gas industry in the country, with 24 offices in Alabama.
In a recent statement, an Airgas spokesman said that supplying gas for executions wouldn’t be consistent with the company’s mission. “Regardless of the philosophical and intellectual debate surrounding the death penalty itself, providing nitrogen for the purpose of executing people is not consistent with our company values.”
Demetrius Minor of Conservatives Concerned About The Death Penalty told News 19 that the decision by Airgas further proves that there is no ethical way to kill people.
“Capital punishment gives the government too much power and given the history of the death penalty we’ve gotten it wrong once,” Minor explained. “Getting it wrong once is one time too many and that’s a chance I am not comfortable in taking again.”
The company is said to have “contacted Alabama” in December to “reinforce the point and ensure there is no confusion as to Airgas’ position,” the spokesman said.
“Airgas Alabama has not and will not supply nitrogen or other inert gases to induce hypoxia for the purpose of human executions. Airgas’ contact with the State of Alabama has acknowledged receipt of our recent communication and confirmed their understanding.”
There hasn’t been any state to carry out an execution using nitrogen hypoxia, which theoretically would kill someone by forcing them to inhale nitrogen without a source of oxygen, resulting in asphyxiation.
In 2018, Alabama approved the method to be used in executions of death row inmates and recently gave those prisoners a one-month window to decide if they wanted to change their method of execution from the typical lethal injection – to the untested method of nitrogen hypoxia.
Alan Eugene Miller, an inmate on Alabama’s death row, recently fought to be executed by way of nitrogen hypoxia rather than lethal injection but argued the paperwork where he signed for that option was lost by prison staff.
Federal judges and the U.S. Supreme Court have scrutinized the process in trials of the procedure.
“There is no ethical way to kill people,” said Bianca Tylek, Executive Director of Worth Rises, a nonprofit that works to dismantle the prison industry and those who benefit from incarceration.
“But to the extent that it has been causing extensive harm and trauma, and [Governor Kay Ivey] has finally imposed a moratorium, we hope that disrupting the technological progress of nitrogen hypoxia causes Alabama and its leaders to reflect on their moral progress and terminate the death penalty altogether.”
In a letter to Worth Rises, Airgas’ Chief Executive Officer said that “any suggestion that Airgas is working with the state of Alabama or anyone else to develop nitrogen hypoxia as a method of execution is categorically false.”
That letter also said that the Alabama Department of Justice doesn’t currently have any nitrogen cylinders in possession of Airgas, “according to our records.”
Alabama purchased $287,247.92 from Airgas in 2022, according to fiscal state records. The company – which supplies gases other than nitrogen along with gas equipment, welding products, and safety products – provided its products to the departments of forensic sciences, conservation and natural resources, transportation, public health, and others.
The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) reportedly bought around $1,634 worth of product from Airgas, but details for what was purchased were not available.
Tylek said she hopes this is the beginning of the end of Alabama executions. “No one has the right to kill another. Point,” she said. “It doesn’t make you a greater person because you killed someone who killed someone.”
Four death row inmates were set to die by lethal injection in 2022. Two survived after ADOC staff members were unable to place an IV line for the injections before their death sentences expired at midnight.
“If officers couldn’t find a vein for the lethal injection, I have no confidence that an officer will be able to properly seal a mask to ensure others are not injured,” Tylek said. “These are simple tasks, and not doing them properly reveals a much more borderline problem that the death penalty is morally unenforceable.”